When Prabhupada walked through the gorgeous building in Detroit, in the front lobby there was a painting of naked women bathing, and all the sannyasis were trying to be proper about things. Prabhupada looked at the painting, turned to them and said, “Very nicely done.” Then they came to a big polar bear rug that had the polar bear’s head and teeth. Srila Prabhupada looked at it, gingerly put the tip of his cane in its mouth, lifted it up, looked at the teeth, and, wide-eyed like a child, turned to Jagadish Maharaj and asked, “They eat men?” Jagadish Maharaj said, “Sometimes, Srila Prabhupada.” Prabhupada put it down and made a wide berth to walk around it. It was sublime. The man was asking close to a million dollars for the building. Prabhupada said, “Every room is worth a million dollars. Krishna engaged a rich person to build this building for us, and it’s simply been waiting for us to pick it up.” Prabhupada walked through the whole thing as if he could pull the money out of his bead bag. Price wasn’t an issue when Prabhupada was talking about this and that, but actually he had no money for this project. Outside there was a sunken garden, and Prabhupada and the man, who was very greedy, were peacefully sitting in the sun in the grotto area. Srila Prabhupada loved the building, and in his sublime, aristocratic way, Prabhupada said, “This building is perfect for our purposes. Every room is exquisite. It’s exactly what we want. It’s a very aristocratic building.” The man could taste the money. Prabhupada said to him, “But we are not aristocrats, we are professional beggars. Therefore, you should give it to us.” I thought the man was going to have a cardiac arrest. Prabhupada toyed with him back and forth, and ultimately Prabhupada got the building. Ambarish gave half the money and Lekhasravanti gave the other half of the money. In this way, although Prabhupada had nothing but his desire, Krishna arranged the building, and Prabhupada picked it up. No one could believe the price that Prabhupada got it for. In fact, after the papers were signed, a neighbor called to say that the man was stripping the building. He was taking the mirrors off the walls, the doorknobs, the light fixtures, because everything was very opulent. We stopped him and said, “How can you do this?” He said, “I can’t help it. Your swami cheated me.” Later on we told Prabhupada the story and Prabhupada said, “Yes, I am a Calcutta boy.” That man met his match in Srila Prabhupada.
Karandhar told me that once Prabhupada was walking in Cheviot Hills, Los Angeles, when they went past a big house. Prabhupada said, “Someday we will have a big house like this for Krishna.” The devotees said, “Jaya, Prabhupada!” Prabhupada walked a little further, and there was a big circular driveway with a big stretch limo. Prabhupada said, “Someday we will have a big car like this for Krishna.” The devotees said, “Jaya, Prabhupada!” They walked past another house, and out of nowhere a dog came running down the driveway. Prabhupada said, “Someday we will have a big dog like this for Krishna.” The devotees said, “Jaya, Prabhupada!” Prabhupada said, “You fools, what do you want a big dog for?”
An Indian professor said that it was all one. Prabhupada explained that it is not all one, that there are differences. Prabhupada said, “If I say cotton ball or cotton shirt, is there a difference?” The man said, “Ah, cotton ball, cotton shirt. . . .” Prabhupada said, “If I say cotton ball or cotton shirt, is there a difference?” The man said, “Ah, cotton is . . .” Prabhupada said it three or four times. He was sitting behind a low table, and the man was sitting on the other side. Prabhupada reached over, grabbed the man by the shirt, shook him and said, “If I say cotton ball or cotton shirt, is there a difference?” The man got it. He didn’t just get it to be polite, but Prabhupada, while still friendly, managed to shake through his buffalo brain. The man understood that there was a difference between a cotton ball and a cotton shirt. However, after the man left, Prabhupada pointed out, “This is the special sanction of old men and little children. They can go anywhere, and they can say anything. You cannot imitate.”
Beyond the park there were museums and a quiet, forested area. I had walked in the park many times, but I had never seen this area. When Prabhupada walked there, deer came on both sides of the walkway and walked with us. They’d run twenty yards ahead and then wait. Prabhupada would catch up, and then they’d run ahead and wait again. Twice when Srila Prabhupada was there they followed us all the way down and all the way up. One of the devotees quoted the “atmarama” verse; that even dull animals can appreciate a Krishna conscious person. We were thinking, “What is the status of Srila Prabhupada? Is he like Chaitanya Mahaprabhu?” We weren’t sahajiya-like, but we saw that the deer sensed Prabhupada’s purity.
Every morning in Los Angeles Prabhupada taught us the Sanskrit for Sri Isopanisad, “Om purnam adah purnam idam.” He would wait for us to say it, and we would stumble. Only a couple of devotees were learning it. After a week or so Prabhupada said, “These books I am writing are not just for selling, they are also for you. You should learn them.” He said we should know his books like a lawyer knows the law books. Another time Prabhupada was reading from Krishna Book and sometimes adding things that weren’t in the text. He described how Narada Muni warned Kamsa that any son could be the eighth son of Devaki. Kamsa was waiting for the eighth son to be born and was letting the other sons go. Narada Muni, however, wanted to speed up Krishna’s appearance, so Prabhupada said that Narada Muni showed Kamsa how to count in such a way that Kamsa became bewildered and therefore wanted to kill all of Devaki’s children.
Tejiyas told me that when Prabhupada came to Delhi they took his vyasasana to the airport and had a reception and arati there. The mayor and some big Life Members attended. Everyone had gathered, and Tejiyas was about to garland Srila Prabhupada when Prabhupada said, “Stop.” He said, “What was the collection last month?” Tejiyas said some number. “How much did you send to my book fund?” Tejiyas gave a number that was fifty percent. Prabhupada said, “Begin the arati.” The first thing Prabhupada wanted to know was that fifty percent was going to his book fund.
There was a professor from Cal Tech who had studied Vedanta and who appreciated what he saw as Prabhupada’s simplistic presentation, appropriate for the neophytes in the West. This professor thought that as one went further into Vedanta, one understood how the form becomes formless, and he quoted Sanskrit slokas to support his viewpoint. Prabhupada didn’t even look at him. Prabhupada looked at the Deities of Radha and Krishna and chanted Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna Hare Hare . . . while the professor went on speaking. Finally, the professor ran out of steam. Prabhupada said, “Are you finished?” and then Prabhupada started quoting from the Puranas, the Vedas, the Vedanta Sutra, the Upanisads, the Samhitas, as if he were hammering a nail into the ground. For this man it was like body blows. Everyone was sitting on a big rug, but this man was standing. As Prabhupada spoke in his lionlike way the professor stooped a little bit, then he was on his knees, then he could have melted into the floor. Prabhupada, with his noble bearing and his hand in his bead bag, made point after point. It came to a crescendo. Prabhupada finished and said, “Do you have any further questions?” The professor said, “Swami, can we have kirtan?” His complaint had been that we just chanted and danced like sentimentalists. The devotees said “Jaya!” The professor had seen the light, so to speak.
Durlabh, the temple President in Laguna Beach, was trying to save money and therefore used peanut oil for all the cooking. But the devotees wanted ghee and went on a nonviolent, non-cooperation strike. We said, “No more peanut oil.” Durlabh said, “I am going to ask Srila Prabhupada.” He said, “Prabhupada, can we cook in peanut oil?” Prabhupada said, “This is not first class.” Later on in the conversation Durlabh asked again, “What about cooking in peanut oil?” Prabhupada said, “Peanut oil is fifth class.” Finally, he asked a third time. Prabhupada said, “Cook in anything you like.” Durlabh thought, “Oh! Great! We can cook in anything I like.” As he was leaving Prabhupada said, “But I know one man who ate too many pakoras cooked in peanut oil.” A devotee said, “What happened to him?” Prabhupada said, “He died the next morning.” That was Prabhupada’s purport on peanut oil and that was the end of peanut oil.
We were walking by big houses in Letcho Park in Chicago when an enormous dog came running toward us. Three or four devotees hid behind cars, and a couple of devotees hid behind Brahmananda. Everyone was overwhelmed by the bodily concept of life and the thought of self-preservation. Prabhupada was left out to confront his opponent. Everyone else was stunned and didn’t know what to do. With transcendental bravery Srila Prabhupada stepped forward and threw his chaddar over his shoulder. It was like Krishna tying His belt before He fights with a demon. Prabhupada took his cane and went “Huttt!” and that huge dog turned and went back. The devotees dusted themselves off and regrouped, a little embarrassed. A little further down the road another dog came out. Some sannyasi tried “Huttt!” but the dog became madder. Prabhupada laughed and said, “You have to know the science.”
There was a big statue of an American eagle to commemorate World War II soldiers. Prabhupada went out of his way to look at it. He said that there is a type of bird that flies from one planet to another that is so big that it could pick up an elephant and then drop it to kill it. Then this bird would eat the elephant. Prabhupada mentioned that because he saw the eagle statue.
Prabhupada was sitting on the lawn in New Vrindavan when some simple neighbor, who had heard that Prabhupada was there, came in his pickup truck. He walked up to Srila Prabhupada, said “Got something for you, Swami,” and plopped a grocery bag on Prabhupada’s lap. On one hand Prabhupada was very large. He had a presence that could fill a whole room. But in reality Prabhupada was not very tall, and he was delicate. Prabhupada was sitting there with this big grocery bag full of vegetables on his lap. He reached inside, pulled out a zucchini, and showed it to everybody. He said, “When someone brings you something from their garden that is love.”
In the afternoon and evening Prabhupada sat in his garden and read with sannyasis and temple presidents. At that time a whole gallery of devotees would look out the temple windows into the garden to see and hear Srila Prabhupada. Gargamuni looked up at us and said, “Get out, get out.” He got heavy with us for looking, because he thought we were bothering Srila Prabhupada. The next day, when no one was there looking, Prabhupada looked up and said, “Where are the devotees?” Someone said, “Gargamuni said that they shouldn’t be there.” Prabhupada said, “Go get them.” Then, with Prabhupada’s permission, we all sat and looked out the windows at Srila Prabhupada in the garden. Prabhupada liked the devotees there. Once he was looking through the newspaper about the moon shot. The headline stated, “One small step for man, one great step for mankind.” Prabhupada flicked through and got to the fourth or fifth page where there was an article about how taxes were going up to pay for the space program. Prabhupada said, “This is their real business. They have made some scheme to squeeze money out of the innocent public. The moon expedition is just a side show.”
A devotee was telling Srila Prabhupada that he was selling prasadam, Bengali sweets, at a stand in front of UC Berkeley. He was going on and on about this. Prabhupada stopped him and asked Tripurari, “How many books did you sell?” Tripurari told him some amazing figure. Prabhupada said, “This is the real Bengali sweet, Caitanya-caritamrta.”
Prabhupada turned to Ekendra, Rupanuga’s son, who was seven or eight years old. He said, “Ekendra, lead kirtan.” Little Ekendra sang “Namah om,” “Shri Krishna Chaitanya,” and “Hare Krishna.” When he was done, Prabhupada called him over and gave him a ten dollar bill. He said, “Buy yourself a red fire engine.” Then Prabhupada said, “Children like the color red.”
A devotee said, “Prabhupada, when I joined I was only eighteen and it was easy for me to follow the principles. Now, so many years later, my life has changed.” He was going on and on. Prabhupada slammed his hand down and said, “Then why did you promise? Only an animal can’t keep his promise.” Prabhupada was so heavy.